Verbing

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Verbing

Post by Phil White » Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:35 pm

For a good year or so, I have been pondering the nature of verbs and nouns (and indeed other parts of speech) and specifically whether the distinction is entirely spurious on a cognitive level.

I have been playing with such things as: if we can "box a consignment", why can't we "cupboard the shopping", and if we don't use the latter, would it be intuitively understood if someone did use it? Why can't I "oven the turkey"?

In fact, the answers to those simple questions are also simple: There is no syntactical or grammatical constraint in the English language that stops us from verbing nouns. And with all the ones I have tried, my long-suffering test subjects have always grasped the intended meaning of my new coinages intuitively.

In fact, as we have often remarked on this board, this is going on all the time, and "verbing" is the correct term for it.

I came across this article from a couple of years back that takes a lighthearted look at the phenomenon.

I shall not bore you with the rest of my thinking on "whether, cognitively, there is any such thing as a verb or a noun" ... yet. I just wanted to share that link with you.
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Re: Verbing

Post by trolley » Tue Feb 02, 2016 6:57 pm

Although the practice has been around forever, it has really started to snowball. I seem to hear a new one every couple of days. I can't even put my finger on why, but some I like, some I don't even have an opinion on and some irritate the hell out of me. Heard last night on a cooking competition..."The ribs were cooked beautifully, but they were not sauced well." I am perfectly fine with a house being painted. Why then, do I struggle with ribs being sauced?

Now that I look it up, I see that it's not new, at all. Oh well, I still don't like it....makes me think the ribs were sloppy drunk.
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Re: Verbing

Post by Phil White » Tue Feb 02, 2016 7:44 pm

I suppose our reaction is driven by our perception of the usefulness of the coinage and the intention of the user. If it is done to make communication slick and easy, we accept it more than if it seems to be done merely to appear hip.

Incidentally, what is fascinating me at the moment is that pretty well all parts of speech seem to be fluid. If I can "down a pint" (or "down an aircraft"), why can't I "off the television"? If I can "slow the progress of something" can I also "quick the progress"?

The most noticeable trend in modern business English is the use of verbs as nouns, which seems a little odder:
"... from the get-go ..."
"... the take-away from the conference ..."

The more I delve into it (have a delve into it), the less I am inclined to believe that, cognitively, we compartmentalize our perception and understanding of the world into grammatical categories the way grammarians would want us to.

But yes, trolley, some of these phenomena, which have been around since English has been around, do seem to be becoming more frequent.
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Re: Verbing

Post by BonnieL » Tue Feb 02, 2016 8:48 pm

Plate/plating.

Even tho many years ago (in the dark ages) I had food service training, and I wrote food columns for local papers more recently, I hadn't heard of "plate" used as a verb until just a few years ago. It makes sense, and I use it now, but it sure sounded strange when I first came across it.
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Re: Verbing

Post by Phil White » Tue Feb 02, 2016 9:26 pm

Now there's an interesting one, and thank you for it. "Plate" has already existed for a while now (as in silver-plate or zinc-plate), but the newer "serve on a plate" seems to reside happily alongside it in its different guise.

I was toying with "plane a consignment" or "rail a consignment" ("train a consignment" clashes with an entirely different verb). We can, of course, "ship a consignment", but the meaning has become conventionalized to mean "dispatch" by any means whatsoever. And this is what happens when nouns are verbed. They tend to take on a rather specific subset of meanings (or in the case of "ship", a broader range of meanings) and become relatively fixed.
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Re: Verbing

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Feb 02, 2016 10:08 pm

Phil White wrote:I suppose our reaction is driven by our perception of the usefulness of the coinage and the intention of the user. If it is done to make communication slick and easy, we accept it more than if it seems to be done merely to appear hip.

Incidentally, what is fascinating me at the moment is that pretty well all parts of speech seem to be fluid. If I can "down a pint" (or "down an aircraft"), why can't I "off the television"? If I can "slow the progress of something" can I also "quick the progress"?

The most noticeable trend in modern business English is the use of verbs as nouns, which seems a little odder:
"... from the get-go ..."
"... the take-away from the conference ..."

The more I delve into it (have a delve into it), the less I am inclined to believe that, cognitively, we compartmentalize our perception and understanding of the world into grammatical categories the way grammarians would want us to.

But yes, trolley, some of these phenomena, which have been around since English has been around, do seem to be becoming more frequent.
Is it still hip to be hip?

You can 'off' your enemies (i.e. kill them), or one can 'off oneself' (i.e. take one's own life), at least in American English. But I can't think of a context in which it is possible to 'on' something or someone. Maybe someday there will be one.

The fluidity of usage in terms of part-of-speech category seems like a natural consequence or aspect of the transition from action to result. You may wind someone up in British English (i.e. provoke them, usually to tease them); the natural result is therefore 'a wind-up'. (That particular term seems very apt, insofar as it involves increasing a person's stress level in a manner analogous to increasing the amount of energy stored in the spring of a clock when it is wound up.)
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Re: Verbing

Post by Phil White » Tue Feb 02, 2016 11:28 pm

Yes, nominal grammatical manifestations would appear to stress something more static, usually resultative, than verbal grammatical manifestations. That was part of the discussion I had with myself in the article I wrote a while back. But that related to the morphological derivation of nominal forms from verbs (optimize vs. optinization). In cases where we have a grammatical noun and use it directly as a verb, the reverse may not apply. If I tell someone to "box a consignment", am I thinking of the resultative meaning of a consignment that is boxed and ready for shipping, or am I thinking of the process of putting it in the box? Or, to take Bonnie's example, am I thinking of the completed arrangement of the food on the plate or the process of arranging it? Or both? Or something else? Or the resultative in some cases and the activity in others?

I am not at all sure that there is a hard and fast, generalized behaviour to be derived from such forms. One naturally assumes that a nominal manifestation has more static meaning than a verbal manifestation, but for people like myself who eat, sleep, work and dream grammar, it is hard to divorce my linguist's expectation from what may be going on in reality (i.e. the reality of other peoples' heads - insofar as they are not, as WoZ recently pointed out, having "surreal" experiences).

But I must off the computer and stair down to spotless the house before my clean-lady doorbells tomorrow morning.

Thing is, did anyone actually not understand that? I'm not saying it is done all the time, nor that it should be, but if it is done, we understand what is meant with little problem.
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Re: Verbing

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Feb 03, 2016 2:16 am

It would be an interesting exercise to write a story where what are normally nouns are turned into verbs, and what are normally verbs are turned into nouns. Just how alien-seeming would the resulting prose be to the reader?
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Re: Verbing

Post by Phil White » Mon Feb 08, 2016 11:08 pm

Heard on the news tonight:
"Imogen is the first named storm this year that has narratived on southern England."
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End of topic.
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